Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pass the chillies please

This is a bit of a cheat as this isn't our cooking lesson but we all had aprons like this and it seemed like they were learning the same recipes.

We were dropped off at Bumi Bali at 9am sharp for our cooking lesson and we joined about eighteen other people of many different nationalities. There was a French couple with their three children and the two older boys got right into the lesson, trying everything and volunteering to mix etc. I was sitting next to two Canadian guys and there were a few Dutch and Korean couples as well as another couple of Aussie women.

The first thing that the chef did was to herd us all out of the restaurant and off we all walked to the local market. A bit like a school trip but we didn't have to hold hands! We trooped downstairs to the food market and were introduced to all the different fresh spices, vegetables and fruit. This was followed by a visit to the stall that had all the dried goods, rices and spices. We didn't buy any of the ingredients, it was more a "show and tell" part of the lesson.

Then we all marched back to the restaurant. By this time we're all sweating madly as it's pretty hot over there and crowded. We were all given a small bottle of water, an apron and a recipe book before the lesson began. The chef then insisted that we taste the difference between galangal and lesser galangal, kafir lime and Tahitian lime etc. And then the lesson proper began.

The first thing was to mix all the ingredients for the Basa Gede (Basic Spice Paste). There are sixteen (16) ingredients that must be ground together and then fried quickly in a very hot wok in coconut oil. These included;- 25 shallots (much smaller than ours) so you can use 12 onions instead; 8 or 9 cloves of oz garlic; 7 large red chillies, seeded and chopped; 5cm galangal chopped; 5cm lesser galangal or ginger chopped; 10cm fresh turmeric chopped or 2tbsps dried; 1 tbsp coriander seeds; 6 candlenuts (macadamias or almonds); 2 tspns shrimp paste; half teaspoon each of black and white peppercorns; 1 pinch of grated fresh nutmeg; 3 cloves; 1 pinch of cumin; 1 quarter tspn sesame seeds and 1 – 3 tablespoons salt (to taste).

Naturally, this is all best if a pestle and mortar are used but the chef said that he uses a blender because of the quantity that he has to make – much to his mother's disgust. So if you are going to use a food processor, add one half cup of water to start with. It should be a lovely red and thick paste after processing.

Heat about 10 tablespoons of coconut oil in the wok until "smoking" (he tested the heat with a wooden spoon – it's hot enough if the spoon sizzles). Add the spice mix and cook over a high heat, stirring frequently for 5 minutes until the mix turns a golden brown. Cool before using.

This mix should make about 6 cups and when using it with either meat, fish or vegetables the ratio is about 1 to 4. So if there's four cups of veggies you add 1 cup of spice mix. If you want a sour taste add lime juice at the end, for sweeter add palm sugar. This mix can be frozen and will keep for 1 week in the fridge.

After the spice mix was made we went on to cook Sayur Urab (Mixed Vegetable with Coconut); Tuna Sambal Matah (Raw Tuna); Tempe Manis (Tempe fried with peanuts); Opor Ayam (Chicken Curry); and finally a hands-on experience with Bali Sate Lillit (Chicken Sate with the meat wrapped around the sate stick or a piece of lemongrass). Luckily we all managed to successfully wind our meat mix around the sticks and lemongrass, cook them and eat them without too many disasters in the kitchen. Apparently this is a Balinese speciality.

To treat us all for being such good students we were then treated to a bowl of Bubur Injin (black rice pudding) with coconut cream and bananas on the top. Then it was time to say thanks and head back to the market to see what might tempt us to cook back at the villa. It was great fun and I did learn a lot about alternatives for food and spices that I might not be able to find in Tassie. So if you get the chance to try a cooking lesson, don't be shy, you'll learn a lot, eat heaps of great food and end up with one of those most attractive black and white aprons to take home and show off!


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